Do you really need an MBA?

woman-bis-schoolA good friend of mine recently expressed her frustration because her husband, who decided to make a career change, has been slow to network, circulate his resume, or show the kind of initiative that would help him find a job. My friend has held several great positions throughout her career and currently leads a sales department in a large organization. I wasn’t surprised that she was having trouble understanding her husband’s behavior.

I thought for a moment about how to be helpful. I reminded her that she grew up with a father who was a very successful businessman, who talked about the business all the time, and who encouraged assertiveness and a “sales mentality” in his four daughters. I explained that her dad taught her and her sisters about the business world in the same way that daughters working in a family business learn about it-they grew up with it!

Her husband, on the other hand, grew up with a father who was a science professor at the same college his entire life. Until recently, her husband had followed in his dad’s footsteps, teaching the same subject, in the same college. Like his dad, he has a Ph.D., but little to no experience selling himself–or anything else. He learned how to be a great teacher, but not a businessperson.

This was an “aha moment” for my friend. She hadn’t realized how much her father’s business had helped her develop her business savvy and skills. She realized that her husband was just inexperienced and probably a bit uncertain about what to do-and that she might be more helpful to him once she got over her surprise and annoyance that it was so hard for him.

I thought about my friend when talking with a group of daughters recently who were questioning their expertise in business, “because I never got an MBA”.  I reminded the daughters that they have a lifetime of knowledge based on their history in a family business.  The issues they were talking about-deciding whether to retain a difficult employee, managing changes of all kind, the need for new products-were really about the challenges of handling unexpected situations at work-something every business owner faces on a regular basis. An MBA might help, but the deep knowledge and experience they had developed throughout their lives were equally valuable (and maybe more).

My simple message?  Don’t sell yourself short. I’m confident that you know more than you think you do, and probably, more than most people in business know.  It’s in your DNA!  Of course, if you think an MBA will help–go for it!